Daniel Warner asks if the fear of contracting HIV is still an issue when we make a decision as to who we date and pursue a relationship with? In a time where so many guys who have HIV are on treatment and a lot of uninfected guys are on PrEP, is HIV something we still consider a deal breaker when it comes to affairs of the heart?
It’s been said that we cannot help who we fall in love with but do we all have a set of unwritten rules when choosing someone who we envision having a future with? Physically it’s a general rule that we have a ‘type’. Mine has always been around 6ft tall, working class, dark brown hair, dark eyes and a willingness to throw me around the bedroom like a rugby ball (this is a metaphor, I’m not saying I want to be rolled around in a muddy field and then kicked from the halfway line).
You only need to look around any bar, club or even online to find at least one guy who matches the physical criteria that works for you. If it’s purely for a one night stand then the question of whether the guy you’ve found attractive is HIV+ or not, is one that might see you going home for a wild night of sex followed by a kiss goodbye and the obligatory ‘I’ll text you next time I’m free’.
But what if you felt you really liked this guy? Would his HIV status put you off pursuing something more long term? A HIV diagnosis can throw up some concerns about short term sex and long term intimacy but in reality, should a guy’s HIV status have any effect on the decision you make about seeing him again?
If you have had the discussion about HIV and if or how you’re going to protect yourself before having sex, then what’s stopping you talking about opening your heart and mind to something more than just a one night stand?
From my own personal experience, a guy’s HIV status would not stop me wanting to pursue a relationship with him. I have made sure I am educated enough to know the risks associated with having a partner who is HIV positive.
It’s not true that a person infected with HIV is any more promiscuous than someone who isn’t. In fact, as long as a positive guy is on medication he is likely to be a lot more responsible regarding his health, his sexuality and your wellbeing than someone who is negative. The same can be said for negative guys who are on PrEP.
Years ago it was thought that all guys that took PrEP were sleeping around and not taking any responsibility for their sexual health. Now there is proof that dating a guy who’s HIV positive and on meds or dating a guy who is negative and on PrEP shows the chances you have of contracting HIV are almost impossible.
So let’s go back to the matters of the heart and allowing yourself to be vulnerable emotionally to someone who is HIV positive. Firstly I think there is a fear of being committed to falling in love with someone who may be living on ‘borrowed time’. There is still a belief amongst some of us that a positive guy’s lifespan is somehow going to be shorter than those of us who are negative. It’s been proven that as long as someone who’s HIV takes their medication regularly and responsibly there is no reason why their lifespan should be any shorter than someone who is negative. The days of HIV being a killer are long gone.
What else could cause us to fear committing to a long term relationship with someone who is HIV? Is it the fear of what family and friends will think? If this is the case then it’s a lack of education and listening to lies in the media that causes these extreme reactions.
I grew up in the 1980s and came out in the 1990s, a time when HIV was said to be a death sentence. HIV was a disease to be feared and if the media were to be believed, HIV+ guys were undateable and in some ways, unloveable.
There is now so much more information available about the virus and it’s consequences that if you’re willing to open your heart to a partner who is positive, then there is enough free literature to hand out to anyone who is disapproving of you falling in love with someone who doesn’t match up to their uneducated point of view.
There is another option to dealing with this and that is to do what the hell you want anyway. Do not let other people’s bigotry and uninformed views have any effect on what makes you happy or who you fall in love with.
A guy’s HIV status should not af fect your ability to fall in love with them. It is a discussion you both need to have to be responsible for your own physical and emotional health but there’s no need to fear the consequences.
Just because a guy is positive doesn’t mean he’s a danger sexually or in any other way. In fact, most guys I know who are positive have shown an ability to connect and talk honestly about how to move forward in any relationship, be it sexually or emotionally.
The U=U campaign and the great work done by THT has made all of us aware that great sex and great relationships are possible for serodiscordant couples. Love is love, even if one of you is HIV.